Vegans and vitamins: Here’s what you need to know
There’s zinc, iodine, iron, and vitamins for so many letters of the alphabet. It can be hard to keep track of what we need and how to get it!
We’re the first to cheer on meal planners who get their vitamins sans supplements. (Hey, if you feel good and a doc says you’re healthy — go you!) That said, we’re also big believers that supplements can play important roles in getting our bodies what they need to thrive.
Because the reality is: it takes effort to maintain a nutritional lifestyle for everyone — from vegans and vegetarians to pescatarians and omnivores. And while it may require extra effort for plant-based eaters to get certain nutrients, it’s important for everyone to take a critical look at their diet and make sure they’re getting proper nutrition.
Of course, we always recommend chatting with a doctor or nutritionist before putting anything new in our bodies. But here are some resources about vegan vitamins to help you in your journey… wherever that may be!
Do vegans need supplements more than others?
First things first, there’s a lot of controversy over whether or not vegans are generally more deficient in certain vitamins compared to other eaters.
Here’s the study that jumped out the most to us: The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the nation’s largest organization of dietitians, said, a plant-based diet is healthful and nutritionally adequate with proper planning. But the study added, there is a risk for nutrient deficiencies, particularly with iron and vitamin B12.
We wrote a whole post about vitamin B12, but the gist is: it supports our brains, energy levels, and nerve function. And it’s true that vitamin B12 is usually found in fish, eggs, and meat — aka not plant-based ingredients. Similarly, iron is essential for blood production and overall body health, and is usually packed in non-vegan foods (red meat, shellfish, and turkey).
Other vitamins that vegans can often lack include:
- Fatty acids
- Vitamin D
Plenty of plant-based foods can deliver these different vitamins. However, if you’re unsure that you’re getting proper nutrition, supplements can be easy ways to boost your diet with certain nutrients.
How do I know if I need vitamins?
Some signs of iron-deficiency range from brittle nails and pale skin to cold hands and shortness of breath. While vitamin B12 deficiency can start slowly and get intense over time, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Here are some specific deficiency symptoms of vitamin B12 they mention:
- Strange sensations, numbness, or tingling in the hands, legs, or feet
- Difficulty walking (staggering, balance problems)
- Swollen, inflamed tongue
- Difficulty thinking and reasoning (cognitive difficulties), or memory loss
But whether you’re feeling low-energy or simply trying to be proactive — we recommend talking with a professional first.
Here’s what to avoid in vitamins
If you’re looking for vitamins to enhance your vegan lifestyle (and not compromise it), there are some common ingredients you should avoid.
7 common non-vegan ingredients in vitamins:
- Gelatin: comes from hooves, stomach, and intestines of animals like cows, chicken, pigs, and fish
- Bee pollen: this is a byproduct of bees
- Collagen: mostly comes from hair, skin, nails, bones, + ligaments from animal sources
- Some types of Vitamin D3: often comes from sheep’s wool (FYI: Vitamin D2 & Vitamin D3 from lichen is vegan)
- Caprylic acid: usually from goat, cow, or sheep’s milk
- Carmine: is a colorant from beetles (!!!)
- Fish oil: oil from marine animals
Our favorite vegan vitamin brands
Ok, now that we know what to avoid, check out these plant-based vitamin brands we have our eye on!
- Ritual: Vegan-certified, non-GMO, gluten-free vitamins with no colorants or synthetic fillers. And they come in three categories: multivitamins for women, multivitamins for women post menopause, and prenatal vitamins. P.S. the founder is a vegan, too, so you’re in good hands.
- Dr. Fuhrman: 100% vegan and packed with lots of vitamins like vitamin D3, vitamin C, and vitamin B12.
- Deva: For a super wide range of vegan vitamins, Deva has you covered.
Ultimately, no two people are the same! We all have different needs and lifestyles, so it’s important to listen to your body and find a routine that works best for you.
And read more posts about ways to boost your diet with healthy ingredients, here:
- How to boost your immune system the plant-based way
- 7 Important nutrients you can ONLY get from plants
- Supplementing 101: vegan’s guide to getting all essential nutrients